Trimes Digs Andrew Russell.

De/From Patrice Hamelin

Hi Andrew, thank you for your time. It’s been a busy 2011 season. 11 starts on the ITU circuit. It all started in March at Santiago to finish at Huatulco in October. Are you happy with the way your season went ? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to be the best of your career.

Thank you for this opportunity; I’m an avid follower and fan of 

This year was my best to date, consistency, timing, and a quality coach made it happen. To gain entry into our key races for the summer I needed some early season points. Chile was a longs ways to travel but with back to back Pan-Am Cups within 100k and a great friend to stay with I jumped aboard. It was a great experience, Felipe Van De Wyngard and partner Pamela hosted me for two weeks, we raced, we saw, and we ate delectable empanadas.

By June/July I was starting to find some good form. Monroe Pan-Am Cup saw me reach an ITU podium for the first time. A few weeks later I raced well in Edmonton and then 6 days later made my WCS debut in Hamburg. 

My best form came after an altitude camp in Southern France. Tiszaujvaros WC was one of those races where things fell into place, I executed the race plan and seized the opportunity to fully express my fitness. I’ll never forget Craig Taylor yelling “that’s the stage right there!” as he shook his finger at Todd Leckie in 20th spot coming down the final straight. (With a top 20 in Tizzy you become immortal to the locals; Win like Brent McMahon and you get a key to the city!) 

Late season racing finished well including a 28th at Yokohama WCS and 16th at Huatulco WC. I was disappointed not to have started at Pan-Am games, but that is a can of worms perhaps best kept shut

What’s your background and how did you start triathlon?

My background is alpine ski racing and summer swimming. Growing up in Revelstoke, BC these two sports worked well to divide the year up and get the best out of both seasons. 

Triathlon for me began as I rode beside my Dad while he ran along airport way preparing for IMC ’87. When he spat, I spat, when he took some water, I did as well…. Watching him finish up along Lakeshore Drive with my Mum and sister is one of my earliest memories.

I did my first triathlon while studying at UBC.  The UBC sprint, with my banana duct-taped to my top tube was start of it all.  I think it snowed that year as well.

Your strength? Your weakness? (in triathlon)

I don’t feel I’m particularly strong in any discipline of the sport.  I feel my strength lies in the mindset I take to training and racing, it closes the gap for me on others who perhaps have more talent. 

Coming off the bike with the leaders in the big races but not winning them suggests I need to run faster!  In particular, foot speed out of T2 is an area that needs improvement. 

Do you have some sponsors?

Yes, I am quite grateful to have had backing from some solid companies for the past seasons. Running with Saucony has been a blessing; their line of product is so deep and diverse that I can find a great shoe for any occasion. Champion System has outfitted me with comfortable and swish custom apparel that catches the eye when whizzing around in the pack. Canadian based Eload Sport Nutrition fuels and repairs with quality, proven product that goes down smooth.

For 2012 I am excited for a few changes and additions. A new team-based opportunity that combines talented athletes with some great companies will be revealed soon!

What race are you most proud of in 2011?

It is a close call between Edmonton and Tiszaujvaros. Both were good races but racing in front of your home crowd is always special.

What race would you like to start over again to get a better result?

Things always happen for a reason. At Lausanne WCS I was dropped on the first lap climb. I blame Marc-Antoine Christin for suckering me into the Nada’s Feast in Tizzy and a relapse to my dark days of copious amounts of French bread with Nutella in the week between Tizzy and Lausanne. If I could go back, I’d stick to the David Bowie diet of milk and red peppers.

I think you were the next athlete on the wait list to get a start at London and that you were there just in case an athlete DNS.  Did you believe until the last minute that you could jump onto the pontoon and race?

Certainly, at an ITU race anything can happen! After Hamburg WCS our group spent two and a half weeks in the French Pyrenees. Simon and Kyle were preparing for London and I went about the same program in hopes of a start.  I went to the briefing and discovered I was second on the waitlist. Race day came and I was first alternate. Arrived at check in and was told I’d have a spot if anyone didn’t show up. ITU has a 30’ cut off check in policy, so as I waited in the athletes’ lounge the minutes ticked by.  With 30’ to go they were getting my chip and cap sorted out as one athlete had not checked in. Then, huffing and puffing with a good sweat on, Crisanto Grajales of Mexico came running in explaining he had gotten lost in the expo. They rightfully gave him his spot and I chuckled at how close I had come to getting a start in the biggest, most competitive race our sport has ever seen.

I had a great day regardless. Crushed a 40’ tempo around the park following the race choppers and then cheered on our boys in a downpour.

What’s up for you in 2012? Are the three first WCS of the season the main target or you will be focusing on other races later in the season?

The first three WCS races are the target. I like to be realistic with myself in terms of Olympic selection. Mathematically it is extremely difficult for me to gain Canada a spot, my shot is performing well at those three races.

Do you think we will see a lot of already qualified athletes in the first three WCS?

No, I think you’ll see a lot of the qualified athletes delay their season to late spring. Stay close to home and have consistent training.  By Madrid I think you’ll see everyone in the swing of things.

Do you think it’s still possible for Canada to get three spots?

Certainly. Simon, Kyle and Brent are three athletes that can get the job done. It is going to take a lot of racing and perhaps a few breaks here and there but definitely possible. I would go on the limb of saying we will finish as the 7th country. 

After 2012? ITU? Olympic Non-Drafting? 70.3? Ironman? Nothing?

More racing for sure, to what extent and level of commitment I am unsure of at the moment. With a degree in Materials Engineering I would love to get into the bike industry and combine my brains and brawn for a company. It is just a matter of finding the right opportunity. 

You have the chance to train with Simon Whitfield each day. You’ve got the best seat to witness all the commitment it takes to succeed on the ITU circuit. Do you think we currently have a young athlete (21 and younger) in Canada who can step up his/her game and be the next one to watch?

Not just Simon, but athletes like Kyle Jones, Brent McMahon, and Paula Findlay. Really, the list goes on as to the talent and commitment I have been able to witness pursue greatness in our sport.  

Canada has a lot of young talent. There is a solid group of final year junior / U23 atheltes who will be knocking at the door for Rio 2016. That being said plenty of other countries are seeing similar or greater levels of talent in their programs as well. It becomes a question of who can manage, develop, and deliver that talent the best. 

Finally, what would you like to see on the ITU circuit? Sprint distance? Shorter distance with heats and final?  Harder bike course? Criterium style bike portion?

A mix bag I think is best. The more variables in the equation the harder it is to solve. If we could have a circuit that had three or four different styles of athletes winning races it would keep the audience on its toes. 

Heats/finals style is quite entertaining. Watching Marc-Antoine Cristin race a Euro Junior Cup of this style in Tiszaujvaros was better than HBO.


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